One of the country’s most violent inmates, Rebecca Jane Butterfield stood in front of her, face and hair drenched in blood
Butterfield’s forehead was caved in in a bloody hole, self-inflicted by banging his head against the wall
« She would go for the shock value… you would go to her door and she would sit there, and because there was a big hole and you could see her skull, she would stick her finger between her scalp and her scalp. » , and throw it like that, « she gestures
« You didn’t want to show him any shock, so you just stood there and talked normally, then walked away and went, ‘oh my god’, » said O’Brien, 54, who works at the correctional center for Women of Silverwater and oversees the welfare of staff in a role funded by NSW Corrections and the union, the Public Service Association, said
In another incident in 2003, Butterfield murdered an inmate at Emu Plains Correctional Center, stabbing her 33 times with a kitchen knife
« There are five prison guards who witnessed this and they will never be the same, » said Nicole Jess, 52, senior officer at Silverwater Women’s Prison
But Butterfield is just an inmate, and these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the shocking trauma prison workers face on a daily basis across the country.
The result is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which in many cases goes unreported due to an industrial culture of stoicism and the fear of officers of being ridiculed or withdrawing from it. force if they speak
Researching a new On Guard podcast – an eight-part series that exposes what working life really looks like in Australia’s toughest prisons – this reporter interviewed around 20 prison officers
The majority referred either to their own experience of PTSD and mental health issues or to struggles with PTSD and suicides by colleagues.
In the first episode, former Queensland Prison Officer Kerry Corbin recounts an assault in which he was ‘skated’ across the prison floor on his own blood by an inmate
This left him unable to work with a permanent neurological injury, PTSD and movement disorder.
Corbin also reflects on the lasting « darkening » of his mental outlook after spending every day surrounded by notorious pedophiles, like Daniel Morcombe’s killer Brett Peter Cowan
The common affliction is shared by many officers who have come close to Australia’s most evil prisoners
Former South Australian Officer Jennifer Kaschau recalls the unsettling experience of dealing with Old Lady’s killer Angelika Gavare, and an assault that caused her flashbacks of PTSD and continued health anxiety
Later in the series, retired NSW officer Beatrix ‘Trixie’ Bennett-Hillier shares her chilling tale of escaping the onslaught of Janine Balding killer Stephen ‘Shorty’ Jamieson, as well as the moment John Travers – the leader of the gang that raped and murdered Anita Cobby – lured a pretty young officer into his cell
« We put our lives on the line every day and we save lives, » said O’Brien
« We are advisers, we are first aid, ambos, we are police, we are firefighters, name it – we are all these roles put together in one And every day we come back, and we keep doing the same thing »
The mental health disorder, triggered by exposure to trauma, can lead to distressing flashbacks and memories, hyper-vigilance, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, negative thoughts, aggressive behavior, and avoiding event reminders
Australia’s National Center of Excellence in Post-Traumatic Mental Health, Phoenix Australia, reports 44% of Australians, or 1 million people, were living with PTSD in the past year
However, in the United States, remedial services policy expert Caterina Spinaris found that 34% of agents met criteria for PTSD in an anonymous 2011 survey.
University of Adelaide Center for Traumatic Stress Studies Director Professor Alexander McFarlane says correctional workers are « very » at increased risk of PTSD
« They are not only subject to assaults and threats of assault, but they also witness suicides and blatant acts of violence between prisoners, so I think there is no doubt that they are running a more great risk « , said Professor McFarlane
Corrective Services NSW told News Corp in the last fiscal year that 144 people have filed a psychological injury complaint While the industry employs 10,000 people in New South Wales, many officers interviewed for this story point out that the claims do not are just the tip of the iceberg, with many agents fearing negative consequences or career stagnation if they do show up
During the same period, South Australia’s Department of Corrections said there were 28 workers’ compensation claims for mental stress
Queensland Corrections reported 39 psychological complaints during the period, adding that 10 were specific to PTSD
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